Make no mistake. The Coffin Train isn’t your father’s Diamond Head album.
This eighth album by the Stourbridge metal warriors may feature plenty of nods to the bands’ now forty-year-old roots. But at the same time, it points toward an altogether different future — hard rocking, of course, but also more progressive and complex than its forebears.
Which is in no way a bad thing.
Of course, there’s more than enough here to keep old school fans happy. Brother to “The Prince” and first cousin to “Helpless,” “Belly of the Beast,” the album opener, is full-on classic DH, speeding out of the station with a relentless Brian Tatler riff and throat-searing Rasmus Bom Anderson vocals. Likewise “The Messenger,” which climaxes with some hard-hitting Karl Wilcox snare fills and an expansive Tatler solo.
But so much of the material on The Coffin Train goes beyond its metal foundations and into territory that’s best described as musically theatrical.
You hear it in the title cut, which sees Ras trade in his trademark rasp for a soaring, crystal-clear, melodic vocal line over some smoldering, slow-burning Tatler riffs, before the song moves into an arena-shaking Sabbath/Maiden climax.
You hear it in “The Sleeper,” when an intro reminiscent of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” finally breaks loose.
You hear it in “Death by Design,” with its intricate time changes and face-melting riffs.
You even hear it in “Serrated Love,” where a familiar, chugging metal riff gives way to an almost psychedelic interlude before ushering in another blistering Tatler solo and a sublime acoustic guitar outro.
Sonically, The Coffin Train is a different beast from its predecessor, Diamond Head. It’s a deeper, denser production with a lot of moving parts that come together to form a surprisingly unified whole, creating a continuity of sound and a clarity of artistic vision that sees the Tatler/Anderson songwriting partnership far surpassing its early promise.
This is an album that yields its secrets slowly — an unexpected time change here, an unanticipated modulation there — making it a compelling piece of work that will stand the test of time. Some die-hard NWOBHM and DH fans may take a while to get onboard, but anyone who is willing to leave their preconceptions on the platform will be rewarded with one hell of an epic ride.